©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to sunny Florida, Saturday where Classic Empire will go the starting gate as the 3-5 morning-line favorite in the 32nd running of the $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Classic Empire comes into this race with a 4-0-0 record in five starts for trainer Mark Casse, including wins in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), the Clairborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) and the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (GC1). Here’s the video of the Bashford Manor (G3). Here’s the video of the Futurity. Here’s the video and chart call of the Juvenile Stakes (G1):
CLASSIC EMPIRE prompted the pace under rating and to the outside of SYNDERGAARD, drew on near even terms leaving the three eighths pole, moved to a slim lead a quarter mile out, kicked clear after being put to a drive in upper stretch, kept on after repeated left hand rousing the final sixteenth and dug in gamely to fend off NOT THIS TIME.
Classic Empire looked good in this race and held off a very nice colt, Not This Time, who was unfortunately retired after the Juvenile.
Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Gettysburg, was a pretty good middle-distance runner and multiple graded-stakes winner that compiled a 2-0-1 record as a two year old including a win in the CashCall Futurity (G1) and a third-place finish in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
As a three year old, Pioneerof the Nile was 3-0-1 in five starts with wins in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) in route to a second-place finish in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Regular jockey Julian Leparoux retains the mount on Classic Empire and he has ridden him in all of his previous four victories. I look for the pair to run a good race.
A long shot I like in this race is Irish War Cry (15-1) who comes into this race undefeated in two starts for trainer Graham Motion including a narrow win by a nose in the Marylander Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
IRISH WAR CRY gained command between rivals soon after the break, fought restraint while contesting the pace outside UNDULATED, settled near the half mile marker then briefly spurted clear three furlongs out, dropped in towards the fence while engaged by O DIONYSIUS mid turn, dueled inside that one through the duration of the stretch, kept on under repeated left handed encouragement and prevailed by the slimmest of margins.
I like how Irish War Cry persisted down the lane to score the win over a determined O Dionysius and that duel was probably a good lesson for contests like the Holy Bull Stakes (G2).
Curlin, the sire of Irish War Cry, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in career earnings.
Curlin did not start as a two year old. But, at the age of three, Curlin was 6-1-2 in nine starts with $5,102,800 in earnings including wins in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2) en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) and he finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Other important stakes wins include the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Irish War Cry has the breeding to be competitive in this race and I look for him to run a good race.
Fact Finding (6-1) comes into this race undefeated in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a win by seven lengths in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream on December 10. Here’d the video and chart call of that race:
FACT FINDING held slight lead out of the chute then came under pressure from BASHA, continued to duel for the lead racing along inside of rival through the backstretch, edged away past the quarter pole, continued driving on top, pulled away then finished ridden out in final sixteenth.
Fact Finding looked good scoring an easy win the Smooth Air Stakes and, with three straight wins, he appears to be farther along than his sire, The Factor, was at this point on the trail.
The Factor was a multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 6-2-0 record in 13 starts with $922,180 in career earnings and, as a two year old, he compiled a 1-0-0 record in two starts.
As a three year old, The Factor won four races in seven starts. His most notable wins were in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and Rebel Stakes (G2). After finishing seventh in the Arkansas Derby, The Factor was given a four month rest and came back to win the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G1) and Malibu Stakes (G2).
The Factor went on at the age of four to win the San Carlos Stakes (G2) and he finished second in both the Triple Bend Handicap (G1) and the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1).
Fact Finding has been training well and a recent bullet work on January 21 could have him ready to run another good race.
Gunnevera (9-2) comes into the race for trainer Antonio Sano with a 3-1-0 record in six starts including a win in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) and Delta Downs Jackpot (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
GUNNEVERA outrun early, advanced outside up the backstretch, circled rivals entering the second turn, gained the margin at the eighth pole and steadily drew clear in a solid effort.
Gunnevera trailed the field until the far turn when he made a big move to take command at the top of the stretch and not look back.
Gunnevera has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but his Behavior Index makes him competitive in this race.
Dialed In, the sire of Gunnevera, won his only start as a two year old – a 6½ furlong maiden special weight by a half a length at Churchill Downs in November 2010. As a three year old, Dialed In won the one mile Holy Bull Stakes, finished second in a 9-furlong Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park, and won the Florida Derby (G1) by a head over Shackleford en route to an eighth place-finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Gunnevera has room to improve in his first start as a three year old and a repeat of his performance in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) will make him competitive.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Classic Empire, 30, Mark Casse, $1,459,520
2. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $260,000
3. Practical Joke, 14, Chad Brown, $690,000
4. Uncontested, 11, Wayne Catalano, $99,300
5. Gunnevera, 10, Antonio Sano, $738,600
6. Lookin At Lee, 10, Steve Asmussen, $275,600
7. Mastery, 10, Bob Baffert, $240,000
8. Mo Town, 10, Tony Dutrow, $180,000
9. McCraken, 10, Ian Wilkes, $165,048
10. El Areeb, 10, Cathal Lynch, $150,000
11. Guest Suite, 10, Neil Howard, $128,040
12. Wild Shot, 6, Rusty Arnold, II, $87,200
13. No Dozing, 5, Arnaud Delacour, $85,000
14. Klimt, 4, Art Sherman, $380,000
15. Hot Sean, 4, Bob Baffert, $180,000
16. Dangerfield, 2, Doug O’Neill, $168,500
17. Syndergaard, 4, Todd Pletcher, $160,000
18. Irap, 4, Doug O’Neill, $60,000
19. Petrov, 4, Ron Moquett, $50,000
20. Bonus Points, 4, Todd Pletcher, $40,000
x-Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm.
In addition to the current top 20, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
2. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
3. Blane Eclat, 8, Ryo Takei, $22,340
4. Lavapies (JPN), 4, Ryuji Okub, $52,163